Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 27 & 28, 2023

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Update on Japan

In its bid to realize a carbon-free society, Japan’s industry ministry has said it will fund several projects to put carbon dioxide capture and storage technology to practical use.

The carbon capture process, known as CCS, separates and collects CO2 emitted from factories and stores it deep in the ground. Tests are underway in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture. The government will provide financial support to seven new projects that are set to begin by fiscal 2030. Five projects will take place in Japan and two overseas.

One project will have Japanese energy firm Eneos and other companies storing CO2 emitted from refineries and thermal power stations off the coast of northern and western Kyushu. Another project will store CO2 collected from steel plants in areas along the Sea of Japan. This one involves trading house Itochu and Nippon Steel.

One of the two overseas projects involves trading house Mitsui & Co. CO2 collected in Japan will be shipped to areas off Malaysia and stored there.

The Japanese government aims to store a maximum 12 million tons of CO2 underground by 2030. That’s equivalent to 1% of Japan’s annual CO2 emissions. The government hopes to achieve that goal by making use of CCS technology as soon as possible.

Japanese universities have put their minds together in an attempt to develop technology that can manipulate weather to limit damage from heavy rains, which have become more common with climate change.

The group is working on methods to stop cumulonimbus storm clouds from developing, aiming to put the technology to practical use in 2050. “By combining multiple methods, we will establish a multilayered system that can respond to unforeseen situations,” said Kosei Yamaguchi, project manager and associate professor at Kyoto University’s Disaster Prevention Research Institute.

Six universities, including Kyoto University and Ehime University, as well as research bodies such as the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience, are collaborating to study five different control methods.

The idea for the project came from a research report that shows heat produced by urban and industrial areas creates vortices of air currents near the ground, triggering cumulonimbus clouds that bring heavy rain to form.

One possible method for preventing cumulonimbus clouds is moving equipment that expels waste heat from large buildings and factories to more well-ventilated areas.

Another idea is to diffuse building heat with giant fans that blow air toward the leeward side of buildings, where heat tends to accumulate.

Wind-control methods are also being considered. Since wind blows more slowly at lower altitudes, the speed difference creates vortices near the ground. The vortices can be suppressed by speeding up slow winds with blowers.

Last year, project members worked on a computer simulation of vortex suppression. Calculations based on data from torrential downpours that occurred in Kobe city in 2008 showed that the intensity of the rain at its peak could be reduced by 27%.

Scientists are also looking into tricks that would be effective against linear precipitation zones — the weather pattern linked to torrential rain. The term describes rain clouds organized into stationary belts stretching dozens or hundreds of kilometers.

Because of climate change, the number of torrential rains in Japan caused by linear precipitation zones has increased 2.2-fold from 45 years ago, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The weather control project looks to combat linear precipitation zones with the concept behind cloud seeding, the classic approach to producing rain artificially. Instead of sprinkling dry ice in the air to induce rainfall, the dry ice is deployed to disrupt air currents and water vapors that lead to torrential rain.

The scientists are currently running computer simulations of techniques under consideration, with hopes of developing a scaled-down version of the weather control tech for indoor testing around 2026.

Flooding caused 370 billion yen (€2.4 billion) worth of damage throughout Japan in 2021, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. A record 2.2 trillion yen of damaged was caused in 2019, much of it from Typhoon Hagibis.

East Japan Railway is offering its bullet trains to haul large quantities of goods long distances, coming to the aid of a logistics industry scrambling ahead of a legal change regarding truckers’ overtime.

The new regulation is to take effect next year, and expectations are that it will result in a shallower pool of available truck drivers. JR East on Friday experimented with transporting approximately 600 boxes of fresh fish, sweets, fresh flowers and other items, the largest-ever quantity of freight from a rail yard in northern Japan’s Aomori Prefecture to Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo. The goods were then delivered to retail stores and factories in the area.

In the experiment, JR East added an extra run along the Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa route. Five of the train’s eight cars were occupied by passengers, while the freight was loaded on the remaining three. The company has been providing shinkansen freight services since 2021, utilizing its commuter stations while also leveraging the trains’ famous on-time operation and high speeds.

In Friday’s experiment, the freight was handled by an unmanned automatic guided vehicle (AGV) for the first time and loaded in a rail yard instead of at a station, which made the operation more efficient. JR East plans to continue experimenting to optimize its efficiency in hauling freight.

“Long-distance transportation of goods will become very difficult” due to the logistics industry’s so-called 2024 problem, said Takako Tsutsumiguchi, manager of JR East’s marketing division. That spells an opportunity for bullet trains to help solve the driver shortage, Tsutsumiguchi said.

Food and beverage makers in Japan are also taking steps to boost the efficiency of their truck deliveries to cope with a driver shortage. Kagome, known for its ketchup products, and pasta maker Nisshin Seifun Welna have teamed up to start “relay deliveries” in early July.

The arrangement allows long-distance truck drivers to swap their vehicles at a halfway point. A truck driver from the greater Tokyo area and another from central Japan will meet at a midway point in Shizuoka Prefecture. Each will then get behind the wheel of the other’s truck and drive it back to the starting area.

The companies say that will cut the distance of each driver’s round trip to half, and a two-day journey to a single day. They say that will boost efficiency in delivery and reduce the burden on drivers.

Beverage maker Suntory Holdings is revamping its logistics management system starting on Monday. This will allow real-time, centralized monitoring of locations of trucks delivering its products to wholesalers. The company says it makes phone contact with truck drivers unnecessary, cutting drivers’ work time by a total of 30,000 hours annually. It expects the system will be particularly helpful during busy times such as the year-end period.

Seven Members of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea were elected on 14 June 2023 at the thirty-third Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, currently ongoing at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Government of Japan highly welcomes the election of Japan’s candidate, Mr. HORINOUCHI Hidehisa, Ambassador for UNCLOS, from among the candidates for the Asia-Pacific Group.

As the rule of law at sea becomes ever more important, ITLOS is playing an even larger role in the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes. Japan highly appreciates ITLOS for making significant contributions in maintaining and developing the rule of law at sea, making timely and insightful decisions for the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes, in particular during the 18 years that Mr. YANAI Shunji has been serving as a member of ITLOS, including as its President. Following in the footsteps of Judge YANAI, Ambassador HORINOUCHI was elected as the third member of ITLOS from Japan. We recognize his election reflects the high esteem for Japan’s contributions in this field.

Japan believes that Ambassador HORINOUCHI will play an active role as a judge, and will continue to actively contribute to the maintenance and development of the free and open maritime order based on international law, in particular UNCLOS. Furthermore, we would like to once again express our deep respect and sincere gratitude to Judge YANAI for his tremendous contributions to ITLOS and to maintaining and developing the rule of law at sea during his tenure.

Link to press release ITLOS | Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan

Japan Post Bank plans to invest 1 trillion yen (€6.5 billion) into startups across the country, leveraging its nationwide postal network to identify promising businesses. “There are too few unicorns in Japan,” President Norito Ikeda told Nikkei, referring to startups valued at over $1 billion. “We will take risks and take on growth investment.”

The 1 trillion yen investment blitz forms the crux of Japan Post Bank’s next medium-term management plan, starting in April 2026. The bank will back startups through private equity.

Japan Post Bank last month invested in a 20 billion-yen fund that supports the tourism industry. The bank intends eventually to launch funds covering different sectors and recruit businesses with expert knowledge to participate in the investments. The lender is in discussions with venture capital firms, large trading companies and turnaround firms regarding the funding vehicles.

The postal bank aims to help technology startups in artificial intelligence and biotechnology in marketing and developing sales routes, in addition to funding. “Depending on the potential of the startup, we could invest around 2 billion yen to 3 billion yen,” Ikeda said. Japan Post Bank can pocket proceeds if the startup goes public or is bought by a new investor.

Japan Post’s nationwide network of roughly 24,000 postal branches is key to this strategy. The bank looks to create a system next fiscal year to manage information about promising local companies across Japan.

Japan Post Bank will deepen collaboration with regional financial institutions. It will invest in local startups to boost their capital while regional lenders will extend financing for working capital.

“We want to build favorable cooperative relationships and jointly support businesses that are willing to grow,” Ikeda said. Japan Post Bank’s current business plan calls for 100 billion yen in investments.

Japan Post Bank also will consider investing in fields like renewable energy that promote environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

At the end of March, Japan Post Bank held 194.9 trillion yen in deposits, making it one of the country’s largest savings banks. The lender has invested primarily in bonds, and lately branching out into overseas real estate and private equity.

Finances remain solid, with the bank reporting 325 billion yen in consolidated net profit for the fiscal year ended March. However, the share value is down 40% from the bank’s stock market debut in 2015 due to what investors see as a lack of growth strategy.

Japan Post Bank remains partly owned by the government. Critics maintain that Japan Post Bank holds an unfair advantage over wholly private competitors.

The Japanese government is ramping up efforts to narrow the digital divide between young and elderly people, as the rapid digitalization of society continues to highlight the urgent need to address intergenerational gaps.

With some 20 million older citizens estimated to be unfamiliar with how to operate smartphones and other digital devices, the government has been offering people assistance by holding classes in collaboration with cellphone companies. But such initiatives have only attracted people already eager to learn new digital skills.

According to a public opinion survey on smartphone usage conducted by the government in 2020, less than 10% of those between the ages of 18 and 59 responded that they “hardly use” or “do not use” such devices.

In contrast, the percentage of those who said they hardly use their smartphones rose substantially for older generations, standing at 25.7% of those between the ages of 60 and 69, and 57.9% of those age 70 and older.

At a smartphone education class run privately by NTT Docomo at one of its stores in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward in April, the instructor showed a photo of a large white dog to two elderly men and explained how to use an image search application via the camera function.

The participants were encouraged to take photos and use the app to identify the dog’s breed. One of them expressed his eagerness to learn, saying, “It is inconvenient nowadays if you cannot use a smartphone. I want to improve my skills.”

NTT Docomo’s smartphone classes have been attended more than 15 million times since their launch in 2018. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has also outsourced running the training sessions to cellphone firms and others since 2021 with the aim of teaching people how to apply for My Number national identification cards.

But there has been a struggle to encourage those with little interest in improving their digital skills to attend. “It’s difficult to reach many other elderly people, who do not participate,” said an NTT Docomo official. Starting from fiscal 2021, the ministry has set a five-year goal of providing training to 10 million people through the sessions, aiming to reach half the estimated number of people unfamiliar with digital devices. The number of participants stood at 250,000 in fiscal 2021 and jumped more than twofold the following year, but the figure remains far from the ministry’s target.

As part of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s national digitalization strategy, the government aimed in fiscal 2022 to secure more than 20,000 people in local areas familiar with digital devices to teach other residents how to operate them. More than 26,000 people have already registered, and the government is aiming for 50,000 supporters by fiscal 2027.

Tetsuya Toyoda, a researcher at Oricom Digital Divide Solutions, a private institution seeking to bridge the digital divide, said digital technology is taken for granted by younger generations, who lack an awareness of existing disparities. “The government, companies and every citizen first need to recognize the problem and make efforts to resolve it,” Toyoda said.

Update on the Netherlands

Shell and Eneco supply first power from new Hollandse Kust Noord Offshore Wind Farm.

The new Hollandse Kust Noord Offshore Wind Farm, owned by Shell and Eneco, has produced electricity for the first time. The green energy was brought ashore via a TenneT grid connection.

Production capacity will be further increased in the coming months; ultimately, this wind farm should produce 3.3 terawatt hours per year. That is about 3% of our annual use. The park consists of 69 turbines, each with a capacity of 11 megawatts.

Hollandse Kust Noord is located 18.5 kilometers off the coast and is being built by Shell and Eneco. Construction started in October 2022, and installation of the wind turbines started in April. “Full production of green energy is expected before the end of 2023.”

If this wind farm is running at full capacity, the government’s target for 4.5 gigawatts will have been achieved. The new target is that this should increase to 21 gigawatts by 2031.

The Dutch government must allocate much more money to make transport more sustainable. This call comes from the Mobility Alliance, an alliance of companies and organizations from the transport sector. It includes both public transport companies and interest groups for motorists and car salesmen.

The National Government’s Climate Fund contains 35 billion euros to make the Netherlands more sustainable with all kinds of subsidies. A destination has already been found for the vast majority of that money. But according to the Mobility Alliance, only 1.7% of the money goes to making mobility more sustainable, while the sector must account for 18% of the reduction in CO2 emissions.

“Mobility is of great importance to the prosperity and well-being of the Netherlands. It must remain affordable,” says Marga de Jager, chair of both the ANWB and the Mobility Alliance. “If the sustainability of mobility is almost entirely the responsibility of citizens and companies, support for this will quickly decrease.”

For example, the alliance wants more money for public transport. “The sector is confronted with high energy prices, inflation and disappointing passenger numbers. As a result, the costs for travelers are rising and supply is under pressure.” The alliance states that public transport is in danger of entering a downward spiral, while it is “an important part of tackling climate problems”.

Electric cars are currently exempt from road tax. If that benefit expires in 2025, the road tax must be reduced, the alliance believes. “Electric vehicles are heavier due to their battery. Without a weight correction, the motor vehicle tax for an electric car is 60% higher than for a petrol car of a comparable size. This deters many consumers from buying a (second-hand) electric car.”

The alliance also wants the lower addition for electric lease cars to continue. The plan is now that it will be abolished in 2026. “The government must get rid of the idea that the money flow from car taxes must be maintained. In practice, this makes driving more expensive, which affects the necessary support for the transition,” said the Mobility Alliance.

The Netherlands has passed the limit of 500,000 charging points for electric cars. This puts our country among the front runners, but that does not mean that we are there yet.

“We are well on track. The Netherlands is one of the frontrunners in Europe when it comes to charging infrastructure. But there are also challenges,” says chairman Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy of the National Agenda Charging Infrastructure (NAL). On Monday, the NAL presented a progress report on charging points to the House of Representatives.

According to the NAL, there were 518,000 charging points in the Netherlands at the end of April. These are private points, (semi-)public points at offices, on business parks and at supermarkets, and fast charging points along motorways, for example. The vast majority (384,200) are private points at home, the NAL reports, which in its own words ‘has the task of realizing sufficient charging infrastructure so that a rapid transition to electric transport is made possible’.

But there are still challenges. “The growth of electric transport is increasing every year. Sufficient capacity is a concern, especially with the roll-out of fast chargers and charging options for heavy transport. Governments and network operators are doing a lot nationally and regionally to use and expand capacity in a smarter way. Those interests for mobility should be more firmly anchored in decision-making,” says Gerbrandy.

The organization points to bottlenecks such as the need to accelerate the pace of installation. But network congestion, or shortage of supply and demand on the electricity network, is also a bottleneck for the realization of a nationwide network of charging points in 2025, the NAL reports.

The NAL also points to the costs, because electric driving has become economically less attractive than driving a fuel car due to the energy crisis. The organization states that electric driving should be financially more attractive than driving on petrol or diesel and asks the cabinet to take measures in this regard.

“Due to the energy crisis, charging a car has sometimes become two to three times more expensive. The disappearance of tax incentives after 2025 and the higher motor vehicle tax due to the higher weight of electric cars will further exacerbate that effect. Without measures that put the electric car in proportion to make the fossil fuel engine more financially attractive, the cabinet’s climate goals with regard to mobility could be seriously jeopardized,” says Gerbrandy.

As of Monday 19 June, students in higher education can apply for a basic grant again. After eight years of a loan system, the basic grant is now back. Thousands of students immediately applied for a basic grant for the coming academic year. In the first two hours, the Education Executive Agency (DUO) already received about 12,000 applications.

For the first time in eight years, students can now apply for a basic grant again, which will be converted into a gift if they graduate within 10 years. Those who apply before 1 September will receive the first payment in September.

DUO estimated in advance that approximately 435,000 students are entitled to the grant. Of that group, 2.76% acted immediately and registered. Some students had to be patient when making their application. “The system can be a bit slow at times, but the requests are processed well,” says a spokesperson.

With the return of the basic grant, the loan system detested by student organizations will come to an end. Students living at home will soon receive 110.30 euros per month to help them with their costs, and students who live on their own will receive 439.20 euros, which includes a temporary increase of 164.30 euros. With this, politicians want to help students living away from home with the high costs of energy and groceries, for example.

Last year there were 1.6 million new job vacancies in our country, the highest level since 1997 when the measurement started. Compared to 2021, there is an increase of 143,000 vacancies.

Especially in business economics and administrative professions, there was more demand for new employees, according to figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on Monday. At the end of last year there were 437,000 vacancies. At the end of 2021, there were 392,000.

The increase in the number of new vacancies was visible in all occupational groups. In business economics and administrative professions, the most additional demand was for new people. In 2022, there were 291,000 vacancies for these professions, 51,000 more than in 2021. There was a lot of demand for new employees, especially in the trade. The number of new vacancies also increased sharply in service professions, such as the hospitality industry.

Not only did trade and the hospitality industry create a relatively large number of new vacancies compared to a year earlier, but the number of new vacancies increased in all industries in 2022 compared to 2021.

In the trade, 355,000 new vacancies were created, with demand for cashiers and sales staff in particular being high (114,000 new vacancies). Transport planners, logistics employees and administrative staff were also in demand.

The number of new vacancies in the hospitality industry increased last year by 21,000 to 147,000. More than half of the cases concerned extra demand for service professions such as cooks, bar staff and kitchen helpers. In 2020, the demand for these employees was halved.

In the catering industry, there was less demand for transport and logistics employees, such as van drivers. The number of new vacancies in this occupational group fell to 8,000.

Update on Dujat & Members

We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Elise Wessels – van Houdt of the Nihon no hanga museum. Elise passed away two weeks ago, on 6 June. She was a valued presence in the Dutch-Japanese community and we will miss her greatly.

Thank you for reading our newsletter. If your company is member and has any news to share in our next newsletter, let us know by contacting our office.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

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Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands

Sources: Nu.nlNOSRTL NieuwsNHKNikkeiThe JapanTimes